When crises collide—Policing a pandemic during social unrest

This article is related directly to the 6th International Law Enforcement & Public Health (LEPH) Virtual Conference in March 2021.

  • Marie C. Jipguep-Akhtar Department of Sociology and Criminology, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA
  • Tia Dickerson Department of Sociology and Criminology, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA
  • Denae Bradley Department of Sociology and Criminology, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA
Keywords: COVID-19 Pandemic, Perceptions of police, Racial protests

Abstract

In 2020, the United States was shaken by concurrent crises: the COVID-19 pandemic and protests for racial equality. Both crises present significant challenges for law enforcement. On the one hand, the protests for racial equality drew the public’s attention to the criminal justice system’s disparate treatment of Blacks and other people of colour. On the other hand, the pandemic required the expansion of police duties to enforce public health mandates. To ensure compliance, law enforcement may arrest, detain, and even use force to prevent the transmission of communicable diseases that may have an irreversible impact on human health, such as COVID-19. Policing, however, is at a critical point in America. The government is expanding police powers for the sake of public health; all the while, public indignation about police (ab)uses of power has fuelled calls for its defunding. It is therefore important to explore Americans’ views of policing pandemics during periods of social unrest, focusing on the recognition that socio-economic and racial inequities shape perceptions. The data from this project derives from surveys with Americans on the specific topics of race, policing, racial protests, and COVID-19. The study finds that Americans perceive the police as legitimate overall; however, there are divergences based on race, gender, and marital status. These differences may contribute meaningful insights to the current discourse on police legitimacy in America.

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Author Biographies

Marie C. Jipguep-Akhtar, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA

Marie-Claude Jipguep-Akhtar is Associate Professor of Sociology at Howard University. Her areas of interest include race/ethnicity, gender, the life course, and “place” disparities in criminal justice and health. Her research has been published in Social Psychology Quarterly, the Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, Social Forces, the Journal of Black Psychology, and the Journal of Men's Health. Her current work focuses on exploring the intersection of gender with social institutions, namely the criminal justice system and its impact on health behaviors and outcomes, particularly during periods of social upheaval.

Tia Dickerson, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA

Tia Dickerson is a third year Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Howard University with interests in social inequality, mass incarceration, and sociology of the family. Her current research agenda includes the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on married and cohabitating African American couples. Previously she has presented work on the roles of race ideology and intermarriage in the marriage rates of African American women. 

Denae Bradley, Department of Sociology and Criminology, Howard University, Washington, DC, USA

Denae Bradley is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at Howard University with research interests in race and ethnicity, incarcerated populations, and health policy. Originally from Jackson, Mississippi, she is a Health Policy Research Scholars (HPRS), a national leadership program supported by the Robert-Wood Johnson Foundation. Before arriving at Howard, she worked in community development and education in the Mississippi Delta. Denae is currently collaborating on several projects that investigate policing and social determinants of health.

Published
2021-09-17
How to Cite
Jipguep-Akhtar, M. C., Dickerson, T., & Bradley, D. (2021). When crises collide—Policing a pandemic during social unrest: This article is related directly to the 6th International Law Enforcement & Public Health (LEPH) Virtual Conference in March 2021. Journal of Community Safety and Well-Being, 6(3), 97-103. https://doi.org/10.35502/jcswb.199
Section
Original Research